Hot News Just In!

Here's an example of why I think the site is often shallow and unpersuasive, though as I note below I think some of the "those McCarthyites" criticisms of it are unpersuasive, too. From the front page of the site:

There's Something About Petitions

Given the vast number of radical petitions UCLA professors have signed in recent years, much of our university's faculty apparently follows a variation of Descartes' famous statement, Cogito, ergo sum (I think therefore I am): Signo, ergo sum, (I sign, therefore I am).

Preliminary research has uncovered nearly 500 faculty signatures on petitions, open letters and public statements which take a wide variety of radical positions: anti-Israel, anti-Bush, anti-war. The list also demonstrates that a large number of UCLA professors are ardently in favor of affirmative action, and just as ardently opposed to conservative legal nominees, even opposing fellow alumni like Justice Janice Rogers Brown.

Various faculty profiles that I saw on the site also stress those petitions.


1. The irrelevant data: Nearly 500 signatures (not 500 separate faculty members, but 500 signatures) on various petitions. And this matters because . . .?

2. More irrelevant data: "A large number of UCLA professors are ardently in favor of affirmative action, and just as ardently opposed to conservative legal nominees." So? In a faculty of thousands, of course there'd be a large number of UCLA professors ardently in favor of affirmative action. They're entitled to hold such views; why is it that important that they do hold such views? It doesn't show that the faculty is disproportionately left-wing. (It may well be, and certainly is in many departments, but we know that from other sources. That "a large number of UCLA professors" supports affirmative action is not evidence of that, given what a small fraction of UCLA professors must be in their petition signatories dataset.)

3. The putdown that's really a compliment: "... even opposing fellow alumni like Justice Janice Rogers Brown." Jeez, school spirit is all well and good, but it's hardly a sign of poor character that some people don't let their public policy judgment be swayed by school loyalty.

4. The exaggerated rhetoric: "[R]adical positions: anti-Israel, anti-Bush, anti-war" -- since when was being anti-Bush, a view that roughly half (if not more) of the population takes a "radical position"? Likewise as to opposition to the war or opposition to Israel. Now there are surely radical versions of those positions, and doubtless some of my colleagues hold them. But simply labeling "anti-Israel, anti-Bush, anti-war" as "radical positions," with no explanation of what's radical about them, is a self-caricature of conservatism.

As I've said before, it's perfectly legitimate to criticize professors. People even have the First Amendment right to do so unfairly, shallowly, and exaggeratedly. But such weakly reasoned criticism is hardly laudable -- and, I think, it usually (and especially in this instance) is likely to be counterproductive.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Hot News Just In!
  2. Criticisms of UCLA Professors:
Bob Flynn (mail):
Yeah, I went to UCLA way back when. As an Econ major, most of the professors were right-wing free-market types (Allen, Alchian, Batcheldor, Thompson, Hersch and this one crazy guy from Chile (Fontaine), who used to yell at people for wearing hats in class!

To me, these guys sufficiently balanced out the left-wing wackos in the humanities.

1.18.2006 8:13pm
A. Nonymous (mail):
Here's another less than happy thought about them and what they are doing.

They are paying students to give them notes and tape recordings of lectures.

You can find the details here.

Full, detailed lecture notes, all professor-distributed materials, and full tape recordings of every class session, for one class: $100
Full, detailed lecture notes and all professor-distributed materials, for one class: $50
Advisory and all professor-distributed materials: $10


Section 102.23(a) of the UCLA Student Conduct code PROHIBITS the sale of notes or recordings:

102.23a: Selling Course Notes

Selling, preparing, or distributing for any commercial purpose course lecture notes or video or audio recordings of any course unless authorized by the University in advance and explicitly permitted by the course instructor in writing. The unauthorized sale or commercial distribution of course notes or recordings by a student is a violation of the UCLA Code whether or not it was the student or someone else who prepared the notes or recordings. This policy is applicable to any recording in any medium, including handwritten or typed notes.

Now, in their disclaimer they say "The Bruin Alumni Association will not purchase any lecture recordings that were obtained without consent of the recorded professor." (emphasis mine).

However, the Student Code applies to recordings AND written lecture notes and puts a double permission burden; authorization by the University in advance and explicitly permission by the course instructor in writing.

The Bruin Alumni Association disclaimer only mentions one permission (the instructor/professor) and does not specify that it be in writing as the Student Code requires.

I would hate to see some students get hammered under the Student Code because of this.
1.18.2006 9:08pm
Cato Renasci (mail):
When I was at UCLA Law School the faculty was mostly moderately left of center, with a few notably leftist exceptions. Mostly not terribly political. The broader university, of course, housed the likes of Angela Davis and was decidely more left of center, except perhaps in economics and the Business School. The only economist I knew well was Brian Ellicson, the mathematical economist, who participated with me is a law school seminar on A.K. Sen's Collective Choice and Social Welfare. I can't say his politics was very clear as we discussed the finer points of the mathematics of Sen's Paradox and tried to explain it to George Fletcher, who was ostensibly running the seminar. (I think I met Alchian once and Allen a couple of times -- I'd done graduate work elsewhere in mathematical economics. I still recommend their textbook as a sound introduction to microeconomics).
1.18.2006 9:10pm
I think the group's evidence becomes more even more apparent if you read some of the petitions they include on their list, e.g. One says that the undersigned professors agree that Clinton's actions were shameful but think that impeaching a sitting president would cause more harm than good. Another says that the undersigned do not think that Frist should exercise the nuclear option. These are positions that a decent number of moderate republicans suported. I doubt that even many staunchly conservative republicans would characterize them as "radical."
1.18.2006 10:25pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
I wasted a fair amount of time looking at that trainwreck of a website. This person has "issues" to put it mildly.
1.18.2006 11:58pm
Smithy (mail):
It is time for these far left professors to feel the rage of the students they have propagandized for years. At least half of the UC professors should be forced out for the things they have said and done -- forcing students to read Marx, opposing the Iraq war, belittling creation science, mocking supply side economics. They have no right to do this -- they are supposed to be objective educators -- and now it is time to pay the piper, that is, to be held accountable to the tax payers who pay their bloated salaries. In the country at large, conservatives outnumber liberals -- it should be that way in universities as well. If that means revoking the tenure of these frauds so that they can be replaced by more mainstream, responsible scholars, so be it. They serve at the governor's pleasure and can be fired and replaced, tenured or not.
1.19.2006 9:43am
Gordon (mail):
Here's my UCLA story:

I attended UCLA many years ago. I was enrolled in the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, which long ago was abolished and divided up between other departments. The school was definitely a magnet for left-wing academics and students. Both the faculty and the student body were split between standard left-of-center Democrats and far-lefties. There were no right-wingers in sight, which is understandable in an urban planning context since a principled ideological right-winger probably doesn't believe in urban planning at all.

To me though, the key issue is not the ideological predisposition of the professor, but rather the willingness of the professor to engage in open dialogue and discussion with students who do not agree with that ideology, and the ability of the professor to resist academically punishing such dissenting students.

There were of course rumors at UCLA that certain professors would punish students for dissent. I had one friend at the time in the Urban Planning PhD program who claimed he was booted out of it for not being sufficiently left-wing. But I have no independent verification of his claim, and other circumstances lead me to question the truth of the matter.

The other point to make is that while UCLA was known at the time for its radical urban planning program, other schools had quite different ideological and academic approaches. It wasn't as if the prospective urban planning student didn't have a wide choice of programs and perspectives, both nationwide and in Southern California, to choose from.

My suspicions are that the Bruin Alumni Association are interested not in diverse intellectual viewpoint, but in promoting a sterile right-wing mirror image of what they perceive to be academia today.
1.19.2006 11:55am
Gordon (mail):
A quick look at some of the "profiles" of the bad guy professors on the site - several seem to be crazy lefties all right.

But then I looked at the Zasloff profile. Among his other sins, he's opposed to Bush's judicial nominees, once worked for the Democratic California Assembly speaker, has contributed to Democratic candidates, and thinks Clinton's Foreign Policy is better than Bush's.

Give me a break. My suspicions that the Bruin Alumni Assocation wants to create a right-wing academic desert were just fortified.
1.19.2006 12:25pm
Nobody Special:
Don't forget that the speaker Zasloff worked for, Bob Hertzberg, was very popular among Republicans when he ran for LA Mayor recently.
1.19.2006 12:42pm
Roger (mail):
Smithy, What sort of rage is this? These people have to pay for tape recordings, and can't even produce an actual transcript of a class that was "ideologically biased" to the point of being educationally deficient.

There is nothing wrong with forcing a student to read Marx. He is studied in just about every university in the country. Even if you hate him or disagree with him, Marx is probably one of the most important thinkers of our time in economics and the like. Indeed, Marxist economic theory is even relevant to modern derivatives pricing. (Not that you now or care about that.) Now, of course, if the course was about say, microeconomics, and there was only Marxist theory taught then you don't have a point. But this didn't happen.

You say that professors should be forced out for "opposing the Iraq war." Are you for real? Are you saying that if a professor takes a side in what is probably the most talked-about political issue in the past 5 years he should lose his job?

You also seem to indicate that a professor should be "forced out" for "belittling creation science." Why? Is there something wrong with a professor belittling anything, especially if its fundamental assumptions are precisely the opposite of what is being taught in the class. If anything, a science professor should be disciplined for spending too much time acknowledging "creation science."

What is wrong with "mocking" supply-side economics? Heck, what is "supply-side" economics, anyway. I think you are talking more about political policy then economic theory. Whatever the case, so long as the professor does not discipline a student for taking a well-supported contrary position (and rebutting the opposing arguments) there is no problem.

You also provide no support for the statement that "conservatives outnumber liberals" or what a definition of these terms entails. (I wonder where I fit it. I don't vote. I don't belong to a political party. I have contributed to candidates of both parties, and I am related to congresspeople of both parties. I like NASCAR and modern dance.)

How do you know if someone is really a conservative. I have to admit that I have gone to Federalist Society events, and even joined them, just to see a speaker. Does this mean that I can partake of your AFFIRMATIVE ACTION for people that claim to be "conservative." (I think most of the people in the Federalist Society are just trolling for jobs, and are not "real" conservatives.)

Also, you have not shown how any of these professors committed a form of fraud at all. Indeed, you seem to conflate support for (or lack of support for) a war with fraud.

This is indeed strange.

If anyone has rage, it is you. But all you want is affirmative action for people you think are your friends who will turn universities into political rallies for your points of view.

Perhaps if these people could show the ideological bias of an act professor in class, you would have something. But you don't.
1.19.2006 1:04pm
Chris Bertram (mail):
I don't know why you guys are arguing with "Smithy", since his comments in this thread and the last one are obviously heavily ironic.
1.19.2006 1:18pm
Commenterlein (mail):

I am honestly not sure whether Smithy is being ironic or simply moronic. I had typed up a reply to him along the same lines followed by Roger above, and ultimately decided to not post it because I cannot figure out whether Smithy is for real. There is no question that lots of folks who really think like him exist, just spend about ten seconds on freerepublic to convince yourself of this sad fact. Having read Smithy's musings on this and the other related thread, I'd give about a sixty percent probability to the proposition that he truly is as dumb as he sounds.
1.19.2006 1:33pm
BP (mail) (www):
FYI: Comparisons to McCarthy would be unfair if the folks hadn't repeatedly, happily, explicitly, and with rhetorical purpose associated themselves with McCarthy and, more generally with HUAC. Read through some of the truly shallow and unpersuasive biographies to see how many of them refer with almost fawning appreciation to HUAC and McCarthy.
1.19.2006 2:22pm
Richard James:
After looking at as many of the profiles as I could stomach, it seems to me that the architect of this campaign is for some reason obsessed with the history of the UCLA affirmative action policy to the exclusion of nearly all other issues. He didn't present any evidence that any of these teachers proselytized in the classroom, or any other indication that they did anything other than exercize their free speech and free association privileges. Before the internet, I suppose this would have been a typical crackpot sandwich-board vanity project. Careful choice of fonts has gone a long way toward making crazy monomaniacs seem credible.
1.19.2006 2:46pm
Smithy (mail):
It is interesting that expressing a relatively mainstream view on academia to a group of liberal intellectuals results in confusion as to whether one is being serious or not. May I suggest that Comment and Chris spend a little time out in the real world, where many "seriously" express conservative views and where the age of irony ended on 911.
1.19.2006 2:56pm
Patrick (mail):
FWIW, here at the University of Melbourne in far-off Australia, the law students regard 'i-lecture' (online recordings of the lectures available in mp3 and i-pod for streaming or downloading) as pretty much their first right as students. The few lecturers that don't do it are assailed by emails and negative assessments until they inevitably fold.

But that is only the law faculty - as EV notes, they are often different.
1.19.2006 3:16pm
frankcross (mail):
I used to think Smithy was a parody but I fear he's sincere. Here's a conundrum. He wants to fire tenured profs for mocking supply side economics. But Gregory Mankiw most famously mocked supply side economics in his textbook and George Bush made he head of his CEA. Which would make one think that Bush should be criticized for doing so, except that being anti-Bush is also a reason for being fired.
1.19.2006 3:25pm
Roger (mail):
I think that Smithy is serious. There are people like him (or her, I can't tell by the name) who really like taking such positions. Of course, eventually they get an education or a job and realize that they might be on the short end of the sticks that they advocate. He is a bit of a clown, however:

May I suggest that Comment and Chris spend a little time out in the real world, where many "seriously" express conservative views and where the age of irony ended on 911


The Age of Irony ended on 911? Hmm, I guess this means that on September 1, 2001, it was "irony time" in the USA. Things were ironic. Then, on September 12, 2001, there was no irony in the USA!

What is sort of strange is that someone like him bothers with a board with lawyers. Most lawyers don't call themselves "liberal" or "conservative" (unless is part of a marketing plan). Instead, they express a view of the proper way that the state should be, and perhaps a proper means of interpreting texts. They tailor these views to fit various clients, and put the interests of their clients first. This is the real world.

Sure, I have to admit that once or half a dozen or so times I called myself a "conservative" and a six or so times, I called myself a "conservative" but it was only to get clients who wanted to hear that.

The other thing that is strange about Smithy and his kind is that he doesn't even bother to articulate a politically-neutral view of any subject. So, for example, he figures that people are not getting their money's worth if they go to school and don't have the ideological biases reinforced.
1.19.2006 4:58pm
Chris Bertram (mail):
No, Smithy just has a wonderfully dry wit. Such a subtly understated parody!
1.19.2006 6:04pm
What Prof. Volokh says is about uclaprofs being shallow and unpersuasive is true, but remember, most of what the average university professor says in public is equally shallow and unpersuasive and couldn't stand the level of scrutiny Prof. Volokh brings to bear. (I'm basing this conclusion on my alma mater, Yale; I didn't go to UCLA.) The puzzling point is why Prof. Volokh applies his energy to an alumni website rather than to his own colleagues. Something about the motes in our neighbors' eyes and the planks in our own, I guess.
1.19.2006 11:18pm
Pooh (www):

a group of liberal intellectuals

Volokh's writers and commentariat are a group of liberal intellectuals? Aside from the authors (who are indeed intellectual), I'd say neither hold true,
1.20.2006 1:25am
anon) (mail):
It is 5:00 am. Is it the age of irony again, yet ?

(I got a train to catch.)
1.20.2006 7:03am